Nowadays, heritage conservators are required to have not only a wide variety of technical but also social and human skills. The shift from a material-based conservation to an approach that focuses on subjects instead of objects (Muñoz Viñas, 2005, p. 147) is a structural approach in contemporary theories of conservation. This tendency towards subjectivity created many possibilities by exposing the multiple perspectives that surround a conservation object. At the same time, it made very clear that conservation objects are contextual and contingent (Clavir, 2009, p. 141). This dichotomy between the tangible and intangible features of a conservation object, however, has been successively overlooked in most conservation endeavours. Prior to the conservation decision-making, institutions usually identified the main stakeholders, with publics and communities being part of that sphere together with owners, artists, and conservators, among others. The decision-making process, however, does not engage with communities in practice. This situation is very problematic for the conservation of cultural heritage objects in general, but it becomes truly hazardous for the preservation of cultural heritage with strong intangible features, such as social artistic practices, ethnographic objects, public art, participatory or performance art or even built heritage, which necessarily involves strong cooperation with communities and artists. After all, to whom are conservators preserving cultural heritage? What is the purpose of conserving cultural heritage for “future generations” if “present generations” are not called to decide in that process? This paper attempts to reflect upon these questions through histories around two buildings in Lisbon that had relevant roles during the Portuguese dictatorship (1933-1974).


Public engagement; sustainability; built heritage; social justice

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Published : 2019-12-20

Marcal, H. (2019). PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE HERITAGE PRESERVATION. Protection of Cultural Heritage, (8), 185-210.

Helia Marcal 
Instituto de Historia da Arte, Universidade Nova de Lisboa  Portugal

Integrated researcher, Instituto de Historia da Arte, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

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